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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
UN asks for Malawi hunger relief
Raphael Tenthani
BBC News, Blantyre

Malawian villagers
Malawi is one of the world's poorest countries
The United Nations has launched an $88m appeal for Malawi, where one in three people is threatened by hunger.

The country is suffering from its worst food crisis since 1992, due to a drought that sent maize production, the main staple food, plummeting by 24%.

The UN says the appeal aims both to avert hunger and help people recover their livelihoods.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, where the majority live on less than a dollar a day.

The UN office in Malawi said the funds raised will be used to provide emergency aid for the most vulnerable.

'Deadly mix'

"Investing in prevention will prove much more cost effective than providing emergency assistance year after year," said Jan Egeland, UN under secretary general for the UN's humanitarian affairs, speaking at appeal launch in New York.

Egeland added: "In the longer term, the appeal strengthens a national plan to provide much-needed maize seed and fertiliser to poorer smallholder farming families who cannot afford it."

Up to 80% of the national maize output - two million tons - is produced by smallholder farmers.

About 4.2m of Malawi's 11m people face hunger.

Maize production this year stood at 1.3 million tonnes, far short of the 2.1 million tonnes needed to stave off famine.

Malawi plans to import 300,000 tonnes of the staple from South Africa, at a cost of $50m.

James Morris, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) executive director and UN special envoy for humanitarian needs in southern Africa, said Malawi continues to reel from the impact of food insecurity, HIV/Aids and weakened government capacity, calling this a "deadly mix which threatens the livelihoods of millions".

The UN said WFP will take the lead in providing immediate humanitarian assistance to two million of the most vulnerable in the country's hardest-hit southern region, as a complement to the national effort to assist a further 2.2m people.

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